Multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) detection algorithms providing soft information for a subsequent channel decoder pose significant implementation challenges due to their high computational complexity. In this paper, we show how sphere decoding can be used as an efficient tool to implement soft-output MIMO detection with flexible trade-offs between computational complexity and (error rate) performance. In particular, we provide VLSI implementation results which demonstrate that single tree-search, sorted QR-decomposition, channel matrix regularization, log-likelihood ratio clipping, and imposing runtime constraints are the key ingredients for realizing soft-output MIMO detectors with near max-log performance at a chip area that is only 58% higher than that of the best-known hard-output sphere decoder VLSI implementation.